Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Muslim rebels reject gov't peace plan

Philippine Muslim rebels reject gov't peace plan

Murad Ebrahim (C), chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is escorted by his troops to a press conference inside their base at CampDarapan, Sultan Kudaratprovince, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao,yesterday.Picture: AFP
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
MUSLIM rebels waging a decades-long insurgency in the Philippines said yesterday they would refuse to hold direct talks with the government until it modified its roadmap for peace.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leader Murad Ebrahim said his negotiators would not meet their government counterparts next week as scheduled because the two sides' positions were too far apart.

"With this situation we feel that there is no point of discussion between the two panels," Murad told reporters at Camp Darapanan, the MILF'srural headquarters on the outskirts of Cotabato city, in the southern Philippines.

Murad said the MILF would instead ask the Malaysian facilitator of the talks to meet separately with both sides in an effort to have the government alter its peace plan, which he described as an "exercise in futility".

"It is necessary (to have) facilitation in order to help the two positions of the panels get nearer each other, and create an atmosphere conducive to discussions," he said.

Both sides stepped up diplomatic efforts this year to quickly end the conflict that began in the 1970sand has claimed more than 150,000 lives, but Murad's comments signalled a peace accord remained as elusive as ever.

Murad said the government's offer, made last month during the last round of talks in Kuala Lumpur, focused too heavily on socio-economic reforms, while ignoring the MILF's quest for an autonomoussubstate for Muslims in the south.

"We need them to understand that the problem is a political problem and the solution must be a political solution," he said.

He said the determination of the Philippines' Muslim minority population to have an autonomous homeland in the south was the "root cause" of the conflict and the government must agree to discuss this for peace talks to continue.

The government has not released full details of its roadmap for peace, but said the broad principles focus on achieving socio-economic reforms in the impoverished south of the country and other "doables" in an initial phase. The government has also offered what it describes as a form of autonomy for Muslims in the south.AFP

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